Types of Ornamental Grasses

Grasses can be used in the landscape just like perennials, but their usefulness extends far beyond that of a normal perennial. Grasses are useful for erosion control, space barriers, wildlife shelters, winter interest, as a background to flowering plants, and as architectural features, to name a few.

Zebra Grass
Zebra grass gets its name from the striking green and gold bands that adorn its blades. Zebra grass grows to an approximate height of 7 feet and a width between three and 5 feet in diameter. Zebra grass makes a great addition to any style of garden or landscape, and is very striking when planted alone. Consider planting Zebra Grass in a sunny location on your property.

Cape thatching reed
or Dakriet (in Afrikaans), is a member of the restio family, Restionaceae It is a tufted perennial growing to between 1.5 and 2.25 m, with deciduous leaf sheaths. Flowers are less than 3 mm long. Petals are smooth or hairy in the upper half. Chondropetalum are found in marshes and seeps on deep sand in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape of South Africa. Plants are tender a need and sheltered, well-drained spot in full sun to grow well. In the UK plants are not reliably hardy and should be grown in pots and taken into the shelter of a cool greenhouse. Water well during the growing season but keep plants on the dry side during the winter months. Remove any old shoots as they turn brown and wither but avoid any other trimming.
A bundle or sheath, after it is cut with a sickle is held by the top, and all the shorter stalks that are loose in it, are shaken off from it. The remaining long ones are then spread out in rows to dry, and afterwards tied up in bundles. With this the houses are commonly thatched both in town and in country; and sometimes whole huts are built with it. A roof made of it lasts 20 or 30 years, and would last much longer if the south east wind did not blow a great deal of dirt between the thatch, in consequence of which it rots the sooner.

—Carl Peter Thunberg, Travels at the Cape of Good Hope, 1772-1775

Maiden Grass
This variety of ornamental grass reaches a height of about 6 feet, and it will spread to a diameter of about 5 feet.
This elegantly shaped grass has narrow leaves with white mid-ribs and a vase-like form to 6 feet tall. It shows bronze autumn color and can stand throughout winter to provide architectural interest. Tassel-like inflorescences appear in fall and can be used as cut or dried flowers.
Adaptable, but best in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Does not tolerate excessive winter moisture. Cut to the ground by early spring. Needs space to grow.
Propagation: Sow seed in a cold frame in spring. Divide young plants in spring (older plants are difficult to divide). Pot on divisions or grow seedlings in a cold frame until established.
Problems: Infrequent.

Birds eat the abundant seeds provided by this ornamental grass, and they make nests from the sturdy blades of grass. Birds have even been known to nest within the safety of lush perennial fountain grass. Perennial fountain grass is one of the fastest types of ornamental grass, and it reaches a maximum height of approximately 4 feet and a width of about 3 feet. This ornamental grass is ideal in locations where taller or fuller ornamental grass would be inappropriate, and it does very well when potted.

Blue Fescue
This ornamental grass is appropriately named because it is a unique shade of silvery-blue. Early to mid summer brings beautiful spikes of bluish-green blooms. The round tufts of ornamental grass reach a height of about 10 inches.
Regarded by some as the bluest blue fescue, this plant forms compact, cascading mounds of foot-tall, intensely blue, narrow leaves that are attractive in all seasons. Blooms are generally secondary to the foliage, but this cultivar blooms more heavily than most, with spikelets in summer. This cultivar is long-lived and very hardy. Grow in groups in a border or rock garden, or as a groundcover.
Foliage is very blue. Drought and heat tolerant.
Care: Tolerant of drought, heat, and poor soil. Grow in dry, well-drained soil of poor to moderate fertility in full sun. Divide every few years.
Propagation: Divide in spring, or sow seed in a cold frame in spring, fall, or winter.
Problems: Powdery mildew, rust, and summer blight can affect plants.

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